West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith is going to let it fly against Syracuse.
By Jenn Menendez Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Expect quarterback Geno Smith to drop back and let the ball fly tonight in the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y.
Sure, he does that just about every game, but there has not been a matchup on the schedule for No. 11 West Virginia so far this season more ripe for a passing explosion.
Tonight, the Mountaineers' fourth-ranked passing offense will square off against Syracuse, which has Division I-A's 112th-ranked passing defense, in a Big East Conference matchup.
It could be a big game for Smith and his receivers.
"From watching film, I've got a pretty good idea what they're doing and how we can attack them," Smith said.
But the humble leader of the Mountaineers (5-1, 1-0) added that his team will have to earn every yard.
He attributes the low ranking of the Orange pass defense to some of the opponents Syracuse (4-2, 0-1) has faced: Wake Forest, Southern California, even Rutgers.
"I think they played some really good passing teams," Smith said. "Wake Forest has a good passing game. Rutgers did a good job passing on them. Every game is different. Those guys showed some things on film I feel we can attack. But never can you take them lightly. We're not that good yet."
It is a point West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen made this week as well.
"They've got good safeties. Their corners are guys who have played. They've been out of position a couple of times and have been beat, or they haven't gotten to the quarterback in time on pass defense," he said.
"They've played against some pretty good offenses, too. Toledo is good on offense, Wake Forest is good on offense, USC is pretty good on offense, so they've played some guys that give us an opportunity to see what they do against the spread."
Receiver Stedman Bailey, who leads the Mountaineers with 105 receiving yards per game, said the Orange secondary looked solid and aggressive, and he did not know they were ranked 112th against the pass.
"I didn't know that statistic, so I'm not really sure what the problem may be," he said. "That being said, we can probably put up some good numbers passing-wise. But the whole key is to win. Coach has come up with some good things. We've got a good game plan and we're going to go out and execute it."
Bailey is followed in receiving yards per game by Tavon Austin (94) and Ivan McCartney (75).
"Geno Smith is playing extremely well. That's been the biggest difference from last year to this year," Syracuse coach Doug Marrone said. "They have a lot of dangerous players that are explosive. Once they get the ball in their hands, they can take it to the end zone. They spread you out, so it's very difficult to take someone out of the game."
Smith will face a blitzing defense that will be buoyed by the return of 6-foot-5, 265-pound defensive end Chandler Jones, who has not played since the opener. Syracuse also returns strong safety Olando Fisher, who will add depth to the secondary.
A year ago, the Orange intercepted Smith three times on the way to a 19-14 win in Morgantown. Offensively, the Orange run a possession-oriented offense with a lot of play-action passes mixed with running plays.
"They did a good job against us last year in terms of being able to control the football," defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel said. "Sure they're going to try and pound us. They do a really good job of play-action pass. They do a really good job of moving the football and keeping you off balance."